Monday, April 11, 2005

MoD stand firm but seek negotiations on Pegasus

F.Oliva reports

Military base contractorisation • “Nothing to negotiate on ISP,” says CBF Adair

Commander British Forces Gibraltar Allan Adair has reproached local trade unions for adopting an “unhelpful attitude” and putting their “head in the sand” in the current row over the military base contractorisation proposals.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Commodore Adair said that it was vital for the unions and the Ministry of Defence to work together but acknowledged that at present they were “working in a vacuum.”

Commodore Adair reviewed some of the outstanding issues affecting the base and said that workers must understand the impact of the decision taken by the MoD to go ahead with the ISP contractorisation.

He said that as long as this remains British Government policy and until instructed otherwise by his superiors, he will stick to it to deliver the best possible result. His personal opinion is that the result of the UK election will not affect the MoD decision.

Commodore Adair also reaffirmed that his aim remained to get the unions back on the Whitley Process of negotiations, to be able to advance on issues such as the Pegasus option, early exit and transfer packages for employees and pensions rights.

He is also convinced that any employee transfers to contractors will be covered by the Transfer of Undertakings for the Protection of Employment (TUPE), and that the union withdrawal from the negotiating forum had made things more difficult.

“I’ve been given a job to do and take no pleasure in some aspects of it but I have to deliver. To get the best possible package for the workers, the union has to help us to do that,” he declared.

Referring to the Union’s decision to direct its membership to return the factual ISP booklet distributed by the MoD unopened, Commodore Adair said this had been a “puzzling” move. He said he had made a formal commitment to keep staff informed and that was the purpose of the booklet, and feels that it is still possible to persuade the workers to cooperate.

“I prefer to do it with trade union assistance but we will continue to talk to the Gibraltar Government and the workforce directly. The sooner they come back to the table the better.”

He also dismissed claims by the Unions that the MoD was putting out misinformation as “nonsense”. Commodore Adair said the main message the MoD wishes to put out is that its commitment to contractorise is firm while emphasising that there is nothing to negotiate on this front.

Meanwhile he declared that the meeting that will be held in London on April 14th between senior MoD officials and UK trade union representatives will consist of a briefing session on the ISP and related issues and a discussion after that, but there will be no negotiations of any kind. As regards the presence of local trade unionists, he said this was at the invitation of UK trade unions.

On the possibility of the union taking legal action or seeking an injunction to block the contractorisation plans on the grounds that they may have acted “illegally,” Commodore Adair said that the MoD had its own legal advice and they were satisfied they had done nothing illegal. He further thinks that union legal action will not delay their plans but this was subject to the legal advice they received.

He said the MoD continued to support the Pegasus option for competitive in-house efficiencies by the current workforce to run a series of catering, janitorial and transport services, as the only opportunity to preserve long term MoD jobs for Gibraltarians.

He said that for this to be feasible would require the trade unions working alongside management and noted that the blacking of the Pegasus team by the unions recently “had not been exactly helpful.”

Commodore Adair said there was a fast approaching end of month deadline for the Command to make a decision on the future of Pegasus, and that if this did not happen “we will have no choice but to contractorise.”

However, he continued, the prospect of an in-house bid for the ISP was not really an option because it is technically too difficult given the complexity of the contract. Additionally, it would not result in the achievement of the necessary economic savings that the MoD requires. The tender period for the ISP closes this week.

Finally on the question of nuclear submarines, Commodore Adair denied that Britain would be giving a written assurance to the Spanish Government ruling out future nuclear submarine repairs in Gibraltar.

In a letter to Campo environmental groups last month, PSOE Foreign Secretary Miguel Angel Moratinos had assured them that Britain would provide the written assurance originally given by Robin Cook to his predecessor Josep Pique.

“Gibraltar is an operational base and although we never plan to carry out nuclear repairs if we had to we would. We would inform interested parties on both sides of the border. Clearly we are not choosing to send nuclear submarines to Gibraltar to annoy a Nato ally, Spain, but for operational reasons.”

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